As the need for increased testing and vaccinations in response to global pandemics continue to rise, more laboratories are popping up across the country. In order to meet the growing demands, however, it becomes necessary for labs to provide accurate and efficient results. Though there are a lot of factors that play a role in the accuracy and efficiency of laboratories, part of it boils down to workflow and productivity.
When things run smoothly in your lab, your team is able to optimize their time and complete more processes. As laboratory processes are constantly changing and more technological tools, equipment, and resources are developed, lab managers are strongly encouraged to periodically consider ways to make completing tasks easier.
Lab Layout and Design
Whether you know it or not, the layout/design of your laboratory space can have a significant impact on efficiency, productivity, and the certifications you can acquire. If the work stations, lab equipment, and supplies are located in areas that aren’t conducive to efficient workflow, it can quickly become a problem. Departments aren’t able to collaborate with each other, certain areas of the lab become high-traffic areas creating lines to perform tasks, and time is wasted in trying to access equipment and supplies.
Though there are lots of ways to set up your laboratory, an open concept seems to be most popular. An open concept design is essentially one in which everything is easily visible and accessible to lab employees while still providing them with designated spaces to work. To determine which layout will work best in your lab, consider each process and the responsibilities of each employee. Based on this information, you can then position work stations, equipment, and supplies in a manner that works best for your team.
Update Technology and Equipment
An employee can only perform their jobs efficiently if they’re provided with the right tools and resources. If your lab technology and equipment are outdated, malfunctioning, or inefficient, it may be time to consider an upgrade. Review the condition of the technology and equipment in your lab. Does it allow employees to complete tasks efficiently? Is it compatible with other lab tech used? Is it so outdated that it malfunctions more than it produces results?
After evaluating the state of the technology and equipment used in your lab, do some research to find out what affordable options are available and best suited for your lab before making a purchase. While investing in equipment can come at a high cost, there are funding tips for labs that can help you secure the money necessary to make the purchase.
Organize Work Stations
Lab employees work best when they’re in a clear and organized space. Clutter and confusion often lower morale, slow productivity, and waste time. Other than providing lab workers with the basic supplies they may need to work efficiently, encourage them to organize their workstations regularly. Allow them to set up their stations in a way that best matches their work style and preference.
A big part of the organization is waste management. In labs there are many vials, samples, and more that can be considered hazardous that need to be disposed of in a certain way. In addition to that type of waste, your stuff will also be generating the standard amount of waste with food wrappers, paper, coffee cups, and more. Even if you can’t get rid of the big hazmat bins, the workplace might be way neater if your staff moves closer to zero-waste for their regular trash or take most of their litter to recycle instead of the dumpster.
Create Standard Procedures
If you really want to streamline lab processes consider creating standard procedures. While there may be times where improvisation is necessary, giving employees a clear step by step guide on common procedures saves time and improves productivity.
Going task by task, create steps to complete each process. Then, divide these instructions up and distribute them based on lab worker roles and responsibilities. Ensure that employees thoroughly review these guides and reference them when necessary. It is also ideal to incorporate these steps into onboarding and training processes so that everyone is on the same page.
Maintain Employee Morale
How your lab technicians and staff feel when in the workplace has a tremendous impact on productivity. That’s why it’s important for managers to invest in the emotional and physical wellbeing of their team. Other than providing a safe decent environment, an organized work station, and efficient technologies and equipment for them to perform tasks, there are other steps you can take to improve employee morale and productivity.
You can host social events for lab workers to interact and connect with others in the industry, generate newsletters or message boards presenting cases on how your lab positively impacted patients, be understanding of the work/life balance struggles and offer support where you can, regularly and openly communicate with your team on a professional and personal level, and organize team building events to draw employees closer together.
The world needs the brilliant minds and expertise of lab workers to maintain and/or improve the quality of life. To keep up with these growing demands, laboratories must continue to produce high-quality (and accurate) results in an efficient manner. Though there are a number of factors that contribute to the continued success of labs around the globe, efficient workflows and productivity are at the top of the list. By evaluating these areas of your laboratory and making the necessary changes, you can continue to make a difference.